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01-06-2010 | Respiratory | Article

Homosexual, bisexual smokers at increased risk for acute respiratory illnesses


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MedWire News: Gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals who smoke are more likely to develop acute respiratory illnesses than heterosexual smokers, US research shows.

Gay and lesbian smokers were more likely to have had strep throat, while bisexual smokers were more likely to have had a sinus infection, asthma, or bronchitis, compared with their heterosexual peers, report John Blosnich (West Virginia University, Morgantown) and colleagues in the journal Lung.

Gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals, are known to smoke at higher rates than heterosexual individuals. In addition, the 18 to 24 year age group have the second-highest prevalence of smoking uptake.

Taking these risk factors into account, Blosnich and colleagues determined whether young, gay, lesbian, and bisexual smokers experience a higher rate of acute respiratory illnesses than heterosexual smokers.

The researchers collected cross-sectional data from a 2006 US college health assessment including 69,723 heterosexual, 1259 homosexual, 1717 bisexual, and 1128 young people who were unsure of their sexuality, all of whom were aged 18–24 years. They performed a logistic regression analysis to determine if smoking status affected the risk for acute respiratory illnesses among individuals of different sexual orientation.

Homosexual and bisexual individuals were significantly more likely to have ever smoked than their heterosexual peers, at 18.4% and 21.8% versus 16.5%, respectively, a finding observed in previous studies.

Gay and lesbian individuals had a 42% increased risk for strep throat compared with their heterosexual counterparts, even after adjusting for demographic and selected confounding variables.

Bisexual individuals had a 36% increased risk for asthma, 18% increased risk for sinus infection, and 30% increased risk for bronchitis compared with heterosexual respondents.

When the model was adjusted for current smoking status, the increased risks for acute respiratory illnesses persisted among homosexual and bisexual participants.

Individuals unsure of their sexuality did not have a higher risk for developing these respiratory illnesses.

"Our findings highlight the need for broader efforts in smoking cessation and intervention with sexual minority communities, especially because evaluation studies of tailored cessation efforts with sexual minority communities remain relatively scant," conclude Blosnich and colleagues.

They add that “future studies are needed to explore whether chronic respiratory disease caused by smoking (ie, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema) disproportionately affect sexual minority populations.”

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By MedWire Reporters

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